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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Taleban seize Afghan food aid
Afghan girls wait for hospital treatment in Kabul
Medical supplies are running low in Afghanistan
Taleban officials have reportedly seized about 1,400 tonnes of food from a UN food agency office in Afghanistan, which aid workers fear is on the brink of a massive humanitarian crisis.

A spokesman for the UN's World Food Programme, which has an office in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, says the premises were closed down shortly after the supplies were confiscated.


I say to Washington: take your time and think hard

Ruud Lubbers, UNHCR head
Taleban officials began raids on UN offices in Afghanistan over the weekend, in which they locked up communication equipment apparently to prevent staff passing on information to "enemies".

Correspondents say the moves mean the near end of relief work in the troubled country, with all the UN's foreign workers already pulled out.

UN activities in the country are now restricted to some camps in the north and around the town of Herat, near the Iranian border.

Aid agency officials have warned of the dire situation in Afghanistan, where 300,000 people are expected to run out of food by the end of the month and one million more by the end of the year.

"Humanitarian misery"

There are an estimated 3.5 million Afghan refugees already living in Iran and Pakistan and at least a million more displaced inside Afghanistan.

Click here for map of Afghanistan

The crisis in the impoverished and war-torn country is being exacerbated by the fear of a US military strike against the ruling Taleban, which has triggered an exodus from Afghanistan's cities.

Afghan refugees
Thousands are arriving on foot, cart and trucks
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers has urged the US to consider carefully its decision to attack Afghanistan in the light of the people who are likely to suffer as a result.

"I say to Washington: take your time and think hard," Mr Lubbers told Reuters television, warning against "disproportionate military activity that is so massive it creates humanitarian misery."

The refugee agency says it is putting in place the largest emergency contingency operation in its history in neighbouring Pakistan.

Thousands of Afghans have arrived at the border on foot, aboard trucks and on donkey carts, and are waiting to be let in

Pakistan has closed its borders to Afghanistan, but BBC correspondent Kate Clark says there appears to be some easing of restrictions on refugees coming into one Pakistani province.

It is not clear however whether everyone was being allowed through or only those with valid visas and passports.




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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sean Brickell
"The relief agencies themselves are facing a crisis"
The BBC's Adam Brookes
"Aid organisations are bracing themselves"
See also:

11 Jan 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees' unending plight
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's fear of refugee flood
24 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban retreat in heavy fighting
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